Crash And Burn

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After a few hours of restless pacing and psyching herself up, Lanie still couldn’t manage to open the front door. It was overcast, and getting dark. She’d managed to shower and change her clothes, but then her tenuous resolve had thinned nearly to nonexistence.

Gripping the counter, she stared hard out at the street. It was starting to snow, and the flat pavement was dark grey and glistening. Her joints broadcast the approach of a March blizzard. In like a lion, out like a lamb. That’s how it was supposed to go, right? It was always darkest before the dawn. The only way to spring back up was to hit rock bottom.

“Alright. This is getting ridiculous. You’ve faced down terrorists. You’ve survived plane crashes, bombings, and gunshots. You’ve been beaten, raped, and starved. You’re a trained marksman and EMT, and a blackbelt in karate, jiu jitsu, tae kwon do, aikido, and judo.”

It was a grim pep talk, but she wasn’t sure what else to say. It didn’t make her feel better. She felt bad enough for her cowardice that she wrapped herself around the shame and took one step toward the foyer, and another.

Before making her way out the door, she looked back at the picture on the fridge. A family of five, down by the river after a church picnic. She was wearing a new green shirt, a colour she had never worn before then. They all looked so happy, smiling for whoever it was that had taken that picture. If only that person knew. If only she had known not to get used to it. That things would start to go very, very wrong, and she would start drowning, and flailing, and be unable to help herself or the ones she cared so deeply about. If only she could go back and warn herself. But at least she had that photo. A reminder of one of the happiest days of her life.

Finally, she locked the door behind her, and looked at the house one more time. She really did have to get going. Off she went once again to try and save the world, as they said. But not in the usual way.

It was the same old argument. At times, Lanie felt like she was living someone else’s life. At some point, she had been knocked completely off course, and was stuck in a holding pattern, hopping from country to country, and only able to come home once per year. For a while, she had been home. But now her old life called to her, and she thought maybe, if she could go back, she could recapture a small piece of what she had lost. She had been avoiding it so long. Avoiding the pain. Avoiding the memories. Avoiding the emptiness that would come from comparing this time to the last.

She could see ghosts in this house. Ghosts of a butchered destiny. A mom making lunch for her kids. A husband coming down the stairs with a brief case, kissing them before he left for work. Picnics and potlucks and makeshift forts in the living room. The spectres were as real and annihilated as their late counterparts. It was like she was hanging by her wrists from two strings pulling in either direction. Would this ever end? Would she ever find peace again?

Would she ever see him again? Would he ever forgive her for all she had done?

Cold air blasted her face, and for a moment, she couldn’t breathe. Closing the door soundlessly behind her, she sat on the freezing front stoop. Squinting, she peered across the yard, neatly mowed now, on either side of the gravel drive. The car would be too slow. If she left now, she could reach Innisfail in an hour and a half. Once she procured the needed supplies, it would only be another twenty minutes to the farm. Santos would be waiting. If she didn’t leave soon, he might activate one of the emergency protocols. That wouldn’t do at all.

She left the moulted shell of her former self to brood alone on the steps of her haunted house. She noticed one of the ghosts – she wasn’t sure which one, or from when – flick a curtain shut as they watched her trudge resignedly toward the garage.

Surprisingly, the Vyrus purred to life without a fuss. That was good, because with all of her many talents, mechanics was not one of them. She knew how to sabotage a vehicle, of course, but she never had to try and fix one.

Eschewing the helmet in favour of avoiding a claustrophobia attack, she gripped the seat between her thighs and flicked the remote for the garage door opener. Pausing, she decided to loose her hair, letting the curls fall to the black belt cinching her leather jacket to her waist.

For the first time in weeks, she smiled, tearing out of the yard and correcting a minor fishtail before roaring away.

The burning cold dragged across her face, reaching down the collar of her jacket and shirt to scrape at her skin. Her hair whipped her eyes, leaving stinging tracks on her cheeks and chin. Snowflakes danced in her headlights and left icy kisses.

“Whoo hoo!” she screamed, shocked at the sudden course of life through her, revving the throttle and pushing her bike to a higher gear.

An eighteen-wheeler blared a horn as she cut in front of it, flashing her brakes just for fun. Like a shot, she darted back out into the passing lane and hurtled past fifteen more cars before settling back to the right. Her attention snagged on the green and white sign for Highway 22x. It would take longer, but she swung past the bumper of a Ford Fiesta and onto the offramp. There was a faint squeal of tires behind her, but she didn’t look to see whether the car managed to right itself. For once, she didn’t care. Right now, she didn’t want to be careful. With a cheeky wave behind her, she ripped away.

Her knee nearly touched the pavement as she rounded the bend of the off-ramp. Her back tire slipped, and she screamed as her hair whipped dangerously close to the spinning wheel of death.

She shrieked again as the tire found purchase once more, and she popped back up like a Jack-in-the-box. A shot of adrenaline gave her a thrill so delicious that she calculated the time to the next unnecessary offramp, and twisted the handlebars to cut the time in half. She would get to the farm eventually. This was a much more exhilarating drive.

What if she kept driving, and never looked back? She’d basically abandoned everything the last few weeks anyway. Nothing would be different. She could go to the safehouse. Not even Santos knew about that. It was all for her.

She popped a wheely next to a white Camaro, ethereal in the swirling snow. A teen was behind the wheel, and in the two seconds where they were abreast, his face changed from white-knuckled terror, to shock, to curiosity, and finally to amused appreciation. She let her bike rear again, and he waved at her with an ear-to-ear grin. He beeped at her as she pulled off to the next exit, near the road that led to the golf course. Towering evergreens bordered the road like black sentries, veiled in blowing flakes that turned the road to glistening ice.

She could keep driving at a hundred and sixty kilometres an hour until her luck ran out. She wouldn’t even feel it. She’d dreamed of death, once. She’d dreamed she’d been hit by a big, black pickup truck on a sunny, blue-sky day. A Chevy, maybe. It had been like unplugging a TV. It hadn’t been black, or grey, or even white. It had just been nothing. And it had happened in a span of time so short that it was also nothing. Her entire life, wiped out in less than a breath.

If she died now, there would never be any chance of her dying in a plane crash. Falling for minutes, knowing what was coming, before finally hitting whatever it was that they would hit. Possibly being protected by all the security measures and equipment that would do nothing more than prolong her suffering.

Right now, there was nothing between her pliable, soft, inconsequential human body and the eraser of the pavement.

She hesitated, slowing slightly. One-fifty. Her Vyrus wouldn’t make it, though. It would be twisted and smashed into millions of pieces, scattered on the frozen ground. Some flung so far away that they would never be found.

One-thirty. It was unlikely that anyone would bother putting it back together, either.

One-twenty. Most of the other vehicles were going this speed, and a couple of them passed her. If she crashed, it would be a simple, open and shut case, and no one would feel any need to restore her eighteenth birthday present.

One-ten. The legal limit. Finally, she rested in the lap of the law, obedient and compliant. The white Camaro from early passed by, honking and giving her a salute before taking off.

The stinging on her face felt less like exhilaration and more like an omen. What was she doing? If anything happened to her, everything she had built would fall apart. If she died, or disappeared, all the sacrifices she’d ever had to make would be for nothing. All the times she’d told herself that if she just held on a little longer and endured whatever she was enduring, it would be worth it for some greater end. If she died, she would be a liar. And yes, she had told many lies, even to herself, just to survive. But there were some betrayals that she couldn’t justify.

She’d vowed that she would survive. Not because she cared about her own life. But because she needed to spite everyone who had ever tried to beat her down. She would finish her work, and find her rest, and live-happily-ever-after. She just had to hold on a little longer.

She was just slowing to take the exit back onto 22x when she spotted a blue Ford Fiesta flying toward her at one-hundred-and-sixty kilometres an hour.

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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.”
~ Romans 15:13

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